Originally Posted by mcmoody
If I turn them loose in the coop for nights with the adults after a few days of them in their box in the coop... in the mornings, I assume I have a couple hours to go check on them and separate them again before the pecking order starts? And then..during the day I have an idea to separate them for a short term. They have been living "with" the hens free ranging - the hens have been ranging around their round pen made of chicken wire. So they know we have chicks.
What I suggest is that you build someplace where you want them to sleep at night and house them there about a week. That will get them used to going to bed there. Normally that is inside the coop. I will also give the adults some up-close time with them in the morning while they are still locked in the coop. Apparently you are not down there at the crack of dawn to let them out. I’m not being critical, I’m not down there that early either.
When you are ready in about a week, after you open the pop door and let the older chicken out, open the door to the chick’s pen and let them out. The adults will probably already be outside. Don’t force anything, just open the door and walk away. Let them come out and do what they will. Check on them and see what they do and how it is going but let them decide when they want to go outside. They may hang around inside the coop for a few days before they venture outside, they may be outside within 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter. Each group is different.
Do not leave them locked in the coop with the older chickens when they are awake. The idea of having room is that they have room when they need it. They might need it when the adults wake up. The first few days after I let mine out I’m down there pretty early to open the pop door until I gain enough confidence there won’t be a massacre if I’m late. Usually that only takes a couple of days. What I normally find is that the chicks are on the roosts while the adults are on the floor. The chicks are staying out of the adults’ way, as they should.
A safe haven for the chicks is a good idea. If you leave their pen in the coop for a while with an opening sized so the adults cannot get in but the chicks can, they can hide in there away from the adults. I don’t do that but many people do. It’s an added level of safety.
If you build a safe place for them to spend the night other than the coop, it’s easier. That may mean putting a dog crate or something like that in their current playpen, something similar to what June mentioned, just make sure it is predator safe. Then you just let them out after they are used to going to sleep there. At night each flock returns to its bed. You lock them in to keep predators out and release them at your convenience the next morning. That’s how I use my grow-out coop. If you are going to be integrating a lot you might want to build one.